When Jurgen Klinsmann was hired as the US mens national team manager in 2011, he immediately set out to overhaul the squad and freshen it up with some new faces. Surprisingly Klinsmann turned to his native Germany to unearth gems that were born there but qualified to play for the US through their parents. Terrence Boyd was one such player. At 6ft 2in, the powerful striker was exactly what Klinsmann needed and set the wheels in motion that would eventually see Boyd pulling on the US national shirt. We caught up with the Bremen-born forward to talk about his time with the US national squad, growing up in Germany and why the Bundesliga has become a gold mine for US talent.
Back Of The Net: Let’s start at the beginning – you were born and raised in Germany during a period of time when German football was undergoing a process of change (re-unification of East and West, evolution of the DFB and the massive overhaul of the country’s scouting and coaching systems in the late 90’s). What do you think were the major benefits to you about growing up in Germany at this time?
Terrence Boyd: Being born in the 90’s I didn’t know anything about the reunification until later obviously. Being educated in Germany is great, starting at non-professional youth teams ever their training was good. Later on, at Hertha Berlin I enjoyed a professional education that set the base for what was to come regarding athletic, tactical and technical topics
BOTN: What side did you support growing up? Which players did you look up to and want to emulate?
TB: I didn’t really have a favourite team or country at that time until I discovered (the goat) Thierry Henry and become a massive stalker. So, he was the only player that inspired me.
BOTN: You played for a variety of youth teams before being picked up by Hertha Berlin’s reserve side then eventually moving to Borussia Dortmund’s reserves. You have talked before about how you needed patience and had to put in a lot of hard work in those formative years. How challenging were those early years of your career in terms of self-development? Did you ever think that you weren’t going to make it?
TB: Coming up at non-professional youth setups I always knew I had to put in more work and establish a work ethic that will hopefully bring me to a professional side one day. Still I kept doing school and even though I was realistic enough that my chances of going pro were very low, in the back of my mind I kind of knew I would make it eventually.
BOTN: In the summer of 2012 you made your full debut for the US men’s national team (USMNT) and also sealed a move to Austria with Rapid Wien. Was that a defining point in your career? What made you move to Austria?
TB: The year at BVB helped me propel my career and go pro. I still can’t believe Klinsmann called me up for the Italy game while I played in the reserve team of Dortmund at that time which I’m still grateful for. The time at Rapid Vienna was perfect in any way because I could develop and make mistakes while playing in a first European League and gather Euro League experience during my rookie season. The tradition and the fans of this club are massive and will always stay in my heart.
BOTN: After excelling at Rapid Wien, RB Leipzig came calling and signed you in 2014 during an exciting time on their journey towards the Bundesliga and to where they are today. When you signed for the club, did you sense that they were building towards something great? Have their accomplishments to date exceeded your expectations?
TB: RB Leipzig was a tough time for me personally being out with the ACL but it’s such a perfectly run club with the mastermind Ralf Rangnick begin the steering wheel. When he showed me the long-term goals and the pressing/attacking way of football me and everyone else at the club knew it was only a matter of time until they became a household name in the Bundesliga.
BOTN: It was at Leipzig that you suffered probably your worst injury to date, partially tearing your anterior cruciate ligament. How much of a blow was that injury and what effect do you think it has had on your development?
TB: The time being injured opened my eyes life wise and showed me there’s more to life than just football. During that period, I became a dad and just evolved as a person.
BOTN: After leaving Leipzig you moved to SV Darmstadt 98 in the Bundesliga 2. The move appeared to be based on the need to gain playing time but were you concerned about how playing in a lower division may affect your USMNT call up chances?
TB: Leaving to Darmstadt gave me the opportunity to play my first games in the Bundesliga. I saw a change in US call ups coming when Klinsmann left his position so I just looked after what’s best for me right then.
BOTN: Your debut for the US almost never happened due to a passport issue but with the help of social media you managed to get one in the end. What happened there?
TB: When I got called up to US U20s by Thomas Rongen I couldn’t go because I didn’t have a US passport yet. That was so heartbreaking and since I didn’t have a phone number of anyone on my American side of the family and saw my dad the last time I was 8. I went on Facebook to find my cousin living in NYC. I actually ended up finding him and he connected me to my aunty and she helped me out with all the paper work by my dad’s side to gain my citizenship. So, thanks to Facebook I can call myself a US National Team player which is a dream come true.
BOTN: You made the preliminary roster for the US men’s national team for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil before being cut as Klinsmann whittled his selection down to the final 23-man squad. How disappointing was it to miss out on that tournament? Did Klinsmann call you himself to explain?
TB: Well not making the final roster of the 2014 World Cup broke my heart. But that’s the business and I can imagine it wasn’t easy for the coach. He told me after a practice that today he was cutting the players. To this day I’m still grateful for what Jürgen Klinsmann has done for me and he is a wonderful person
BOTN: Klinsmann’s hiring as US national boss drew attention to the fact that there are a lot of US eligible players plying their trade in the German leagues. At the current count, there are roughly 50 in total including John Brooks, Christian Pulisic (moving to Chelsea in the summer), Weston McKennie, Bobby Wood and yourself. Why do you think Americans tend to feature more in the German system than in other leagues across Europe? Do you think this benefits the US team in the long run?
TB: Having US players play in the best leagues in the world, that as of right now, are in Europe is a big statement for the country and we should be proud of the players the US has in some of the biggest leagues. Meanwhile I’m hoping the MLS will keep developing to catch up with those leagues and I’m certain it has the potential to get there one day.
BOTN: David Wagner was your coach at Borussia Dortmund before he moved to the UK to manage Huddersfield Town. What influence did he have on your development? Have you spoken to him about a possible move to England?
TB: David Wagner is the best coach I had so far. Football wise and on a personal level. He earned everything he achieved and when you play under him you understand why. We actually were in talks but due to the previous injury it didn’t work out back at the time
BOTN: Thinking about your role as a striker, how would you describe your style? You clearly play with your heart on your sleeve but do you think you are often pigeonholed by those who don’t know you as being only a route one power striker?
TB: I’m a clear target man. My home is the box so I play physically with all I got and try to bang them in. Nowadays football got so diverse but I still think the box players are still in need.
BOTN: What about the future, are there certain things that you want to achieve before hanging up your boots? Do you want to return to the US or finish your career in Germany?
TB: Before retiring I just want to shoot as many goals as possible and get the best out of me. A move to the US is something I’d be very interested in.
BOTN: Quick Hits – highlight of your career to date?
TB: My highlight so far would be the first time we beat Mexico at Azteca and my first Bundesliga goals versus Dortmund.
BOTN: Hardest opponent?
TB: My hardest opponent would be Sokratis (Papastathopoulos) back when he was with BVB.
BOTN: Three words to describe former US teammate Clint Dempsey who retired recently?
TB: Clint Dempsey: he is so cool he should be black ha-ha. Awesome guy and what a player he was.
BOTN: Danke dir Terrence and all the best for the remainder of the season.